Brooklyn Wing House Opens amid Varied Challenges
A black-owned restaurant in Crown Heights enters a changing neighborhood and rebounds from a violent incident.
Despite early signs of great success, newly-opened Brooklyn Wing House is already facing challenges both inside and out of its doors.
Co-owner Andre Spaulding claims to have had 300 guests visit during the grand opening on August 19th. “We had lines going half way up the block,” he said. “It was so much people for such a small space.”
The lines stayed long until all came to a sudden head on August 25th. Less than a week after its grand opening, a gunman opened fire in the restaurant. According to reports, the shooter pursued his target into the kitchen, striking his intended victim and two restaurant employees with a spray of bullets. All three men arrived in stable condition at Kings County Hospital where, as of Tuesday, both employees were still receiving treatment. The unidentified shooter remains at large.
Dimitrios Fragiskatos, owner of the neighboring comic book store Anyone Comics, noted the crowds outside of Brooklyn Wing House at its opening. He attributed the large turnout to the wing spot’s promotion, saying the level of marketing was “so much like when you’re promoting a bar or a club, but clubs and bars have security.”
In a statement posted to social media, the Wing House assured customers that its employees “had nothing to do directly with the incident but were victims.” Fragiskatos, 33, echoed his neighbors, saying, “the violence has nothing to do with anybody here — it could’ve happened at any point, any time.”
Before the shooting, Brooklyn Wing House had already found itself in a tense setting. In prior weeks, protesters gathered outside of a Crown Heights restaurant-bar named Summerhill, demanding that owner Becca Brennan plaster over a bullet-hole ridden wall. They claimed that the decor reinforced racial stereotypes of the neighborhood, and Brennan declined to adjust it despite apologizing.
A black-owned business like Brooklyn Wing House stands out in Crown Heights because the area’s white population nearly doubled to 16 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the black population decreased from 79 percent to 70 percent.
In 2009, Colette Burnette opened Brooklyn Wing House’s precursor, Super Wings, in an effort to bring black business to Crown Heights.
“I had surveyed 42 businesses and only two of them were black-owned,” says Burnette.
“As gentrification came to Franklin Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, I noticed that there was a push toward different kinds of businesses — the Connecticut Muffins and the Starbucks. There were less and less of local businesses.” The Super Wings location closed in 2015, giving way to Brooklyn Wing House.
Spaulding and co-owner David Spence, however, appear unfazed by the challenges local businesses face. They plan, in fact, to expand Brooklyn Wing House into a franchise. And on Monday, as workers scrambled to re-open the restaurant for the first time after the shooting, tourists from Cincinnati were waiting outside with their suitcases.